The European Tour 2013 season finally comes to an end this week, as the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai hosts what will be a thrilling finale. The top 60 players in the Race To Dubai rankings (minus Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel – who have been banned from the tournament for not competing in 2 of the last 3 events. It has caused uproar and Schwartzel may quit the European Tour over it. (BIG NEWS for next year already!) will compete for a share of the $8 million prize fund, but the main catch for everyone is the $1.5 on offer for the overall rankings winner.
The course, Jumeirah Golf Estates is one that will provide a worthy champion because of the unusual and interesting challenge it presents. The apply named ‘Earth Course’ lies at 7,675 yards, which even by today’s standards is an absolute monster. The Greg Norman design has had a slight change since last year and the quote on the European Tour website gives some revealing information “In 2013 Jumeirah Golf Estates overseeded the rough on the Earth course with ryegrass, giving even greater contrast and definition to the brilliant white bunkers and barkmulched landscape areas. It provided a tougher challenge to the players than previous years, with more of a premium on finding the fairways with tee shots”
Length is clearly vital, but with that accuracy off the tee now a pivotal part, that extra dimension will add spice for the bombers. With over 100 bunkers and 20 lakes dotted around the greens and fairways, the most important aspect for any golfer to do well here is GIR. That is why players you don’t associate as bombers have done well here in the past – The Poulters, the Donalds, the Molinaris etc.We can see the scores being altered to last year and players finding it slightly tougher, with Rory McIlroy shooting –23 last year, it is going to be a different prospect.
Ultimately, the challenge will be keeping your head in such a heated environment because there are extortionate amounts of money on the line and an unprecedented chance to reach new heights in world golf.
As for the odds, we have been fed the expected drivel with such a small field and some players becoming completely un-backable. McIlroy may be coming into form but below 10s is criminal; Justin Rose is the same, whilst Martin Kaymer at 18s made our stomachs curdle. Henrik Stenson proved last week that his injury is playable and he would be one to look at (12s) because he could make history and become the first ever winner of both PGA and European Tour rankings. Ian Poulter also finds himself at 12s, whilst how on earth Jamie Donaldson warrants 25s is beyond us. There is value to be had, but you got to look to find it.
Paul Casey (28/1 Bet Victor)
Obviously tee to green you’re going to have to be on it this week and in the rejuvenated Paul Casey, there is no better. In particular his driving has been up there with the best of them in 2013 and on forgiving fairways like you will find this week, that could be dangerous. Of course this will be another step up in his rise back up the rankings (Of which he did lie 3rd once upon a time) in taking this title, but he has all the tools for it.
The Englishman possesses really steady course form with a 6th in 2010 followed by 16th in 2011. And he is also a double winner of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, so he enjoys it in this part of the world. If the putter gets hot, we could see him up there come Sunday afternoon.
Francesco Molinari (40/1 Paddy Power)
In a tournament as big as this it is always tough to find any sort of value, but with the Italian we think we have. GIR and iron play is the Italian’s bread and butter or pasta and pizza in his case, and with those qualities you can’t help but think he can go well around here. We have really fancied him the past two weeks but despite some impressive play in parts, he has failed to deliver. But the DP Championship will be a different level this week and it will be a big star like Molinari that you feel will be lifting the trophy.
Molinari has a pair of 6th place finishes on this course which shows on his day he can do well around here. It’s been a relatively quiet 2013 for Francesco but winning this would go a long way to making this year a successful one.
We deliberated over Peter Hanson two weeks ago because the WGC HSBC Champions had a similar feel to this tournament and he seemed to show some form at last. We eventually decided against it, but knew this week we would have to take a serious look at him. When the Swede is fit and firing, his irons are unbelievable. He is one of those players that have the natural ability to control a ball exactly how he wants but there have been regular struggles throughout this year.
However at his last 2 tournaments he has come 8th and 17th for GIR, whilst his putting has not lost that minus touch. T8 and T21 at those two outings is a sign that things are on the up and it would be a fitting way to end a tumultuous year for a golfer who is far too good to be where he is at the moment.His confidence will be high going onto a course he has played supremely well at before as well – never finishing outside the top 20. T16, T4, T13 and T9 is a great return and there is no reason that cannot continue this year.
A rather instinctive pick this one but perhaps someone who won’t feature in many people’s plans this week. His GIR and driving has been consistent throughout 2013 especially in the latter parts where he won his first ever European Tour title the Jonnie Walker Championship. When he’s on his game, he attacks pins for fun which will be dangerous around this track.
At 22 his future looks bright and maybe this year you could argue is too early but when you see the quality of this young man you will understand why he interests us. 90/1 for someone who has a win and two top 10’s in their last 9 starts for us represents decent value. A place at least is a real possibility.
Raphaël Jacquelin (100/1 various)
The Frenchman’s ridiculous iron play and determination saw him win his 4th European Tour title at the Spanish Open this year and we were impressed at how he handled himself. His tee to green play was astonishing, so it has been incredibly disappointing at how he has stagnated since that victory. One other top 10 in Scotland is a poor return and there is no point even mentioning his stats because he has been off the radar that much.
However, last week in Turkey he was back to his old self, finishing T5 and ending 22nd for GIR, 15th for putts per round.and 12th in driving accuracy. That is an interesting combination that could do well, especially on a course he finished T16 last year.
At these odds it is definitely worth a gamble.